Texas Holdem is the dominant force in terms of preferential card games. Whether it's online or live, tournament or ring games - it's the most played of all the games. It also features as the game of choice in just about every poker main event in the schedule. The popularity of the game has grown from strength to strength and looks set to continue it's rise in supremacy. One of it's special traits is the fact that the game is actually quite simple to play. The game itself isn't complicated. Learning to make the most profitable decisions is what can take time. The aim of the game is simple. You get two private cards. There are 5 shared cards - make the best hand from the available 7 and win the pot.
In terms of the initial deal, each player is dealt two hole cards (more on what hole cards are), face down. These "hole cards" are private to each player. There is then a round of betting and the first point that players will have to decide whether the two cards are strong enough to stay in the hand or not. Another key factor, other than the strength of the cards is their position relative to the dealer button (see this guide on playing position) - and also the quality of player. Whilst we won't go into any great depth on these points - it is key to remember - you don't actually have to have the best hand to win in poker. If you're the last man standing (all other players fold), you win regardless of what you hold.
Once the hole cards are dealt, there's an initial round of betting. Players have the choice to call, raise or fold the hand. Once this betting round is complete, there are three cards dealt to the board. These three cards are the first of five that will be dealt and are known as 'the flop'. It's important to remember that a hand in Hold'em is made gradually. The real skill is knowing how long to stick around for. The longer you stay in the hand chasing cards, the more it costs, so it has to be worth the risk. At this point, every player has the three community cards available to use along with their two private, or hole cards.
There is now a second round of betting and players will again need to decide if their hand is worth pursuing - so far they have 5 cards dealt out of the total of 7 that will be. Once this round of betting is done, there is a fourth community card, known as the 'turn card', or 'fourth street' and another round of betting. The fifth and final community card ('fifth street'), also known as the 'river card', is then dealt and there is a final round of betting. Once this betting round is complete, there is a showdown. This is where all players turn their two private cards over so they are visible to all. The best 5 card hand wins the pot. To see how hands are ranked, check out this guide - ranking of poker hands.
- The game is played with a standard 52-card deck and as many as 10 poker players at each table. In poker, a "dealer button" is used to indicate the position of the player who would be dealing the cards if the players were actually dealing the cards themselves. The player holding the button acts last and thus has a positional advantage that remains throughout the game hand.
- After each hand, the button is moved one position clockwise, so that all players in the game have, after a full round, exactly the same number of opportunities to hold positional advantage.
- You can fold your cards at any time. You are not obliged to bet unless you are on the big or small blinds (compulsory bets), so if you don't want to get involved in the hand, it costs you nothing and you should wait for a better hand.
- Sitting at a table and folding continuously will result in you forking out chips on the blinds and it's key, especially in tournament play not to get blinded out the game (loose all your chips to the blinds). It is also important to remember not to feel forced to call raises when you are on the blinds (as hard as it is sometimes).
Here's a summary of the cards dealt and the betting rounds for a standard game of Hold'em:
All players are dealt 2 Hole cards (pre flop) + Round of Betting
The Flop (3rd community Card) + Round of Betting
The Turn (4th community card) + Round of Betting
The River (5th community card) + Final Round of Betting
SHOWDOWN (Players show their cards)
The two players on the button's immediate left must post "blind" bets. These are the automatic bets that must be put in the pot before players see their cards. Typically, the player in the very first position posts a blind bet one-half the size of the player in the second position, although in some games, the first bet ("small blind") may be as little as one-third or as much as two-thirds the size of the second bet ("big blind"). Depending on whether you are playing a cash game or tournament, the strategy for playing the blinds changes. In a cash game the blinds are constant whereas in a tournament, the blinds continually increase, the longer you stay in the tournament. It's important to understand how to play the blinds as it gets many players into trouble. Read our guide on the blinds for more on this.
As stated at the outset of this guide - there's an incredible amount that can be learnt about this game and you'll need to understand these concepts if you're to rise to the top. If you're ready to get into the action - we have reviewed and compared each of the online poker rooms offering Texas Hold'em..
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